Saturday mornings are my favorite time of the week. My eyes lazily open to the sun brightly peaking through the wooden blinds and I pull my fluffy down comforter up to my chin. Whoever gives up their ground on the bed first is silently required to put on the first pot of coffee for the day, which sputters and fills the apartment with its scent, usually stirring the other from sleep. We slowly migrate to the living room, where we sink down into the soft leather couch, cup of coffee in hand, and relax a few sips longer.
Breakfast is a distant thought, as I will my coffee to last a little longer to keep me from facing a sparsely stocked fridge, destructed by the hectic lives of two working adults. Around 11 am, when my stomach starts voicing its displeasure about not being fed, I am forced to start the conversation, "What would you like for breakfast?" I shuffle to the refrigerator to take stock of our options. It is a good start to the day when there are both fresh eggs and whole milk awaiting me - pancakes it is! - but that was not the case last weekend. A mish-mash of items greeted me: eggs, pancetta, leftover red sauce, and more basil than I knew what to do with. A torn loaf of semolina bread rested on the cool granite counter and my eye caught the flash of extra oranges, leftover from a baking project forgotten during a busy week.
I warm the oven, crisp the thin pancetta rounds in a hot skillet, then warm the red sauce in a bit of the residual pancetta fat. I haphazardly layer the components in two individual cast-iron bakers, crack two eggs over each, and sprinkle with a pinch of coarsely-ground pepper. As these bake and the griddle heats, I half the oranges and release their juices. Uneven slices of semolina cook on the griddle. The baked eggs emerge from the oven, the whites just barely set to ensure a delicious, runny yolk. I instruct Mike how to chiffonade the fresh basil to scatter over the eggs, as I pull the grill-marked bread from the heat.
Breakfast is served.
Baked Eggs with Pancetta and Basil
I love the versatility of this recipe - once you achieve the perfect baking time for your eggs, the ingredient combinations are endless. On this particular morning, I uncharacteristically had no Italian cheese on hand and I would have welcomed its addition. Thick-cut bacon or spicy sausage would be equally as good or, as a vegetarian option, hearty vegetables such as eggplant and peppers would be a perfect choice.
2 ounces thinly-sliced pancetta
4 large eggs
Fresh basil leaves
Sea salt & freshly-ground pepper
Grilled bread, for serving
Preheat oven to 350°F. Over medium-high heat, cook pancetta in a single layer until crisp. Place cooked pancetta on paper-towel lined plate to remove excess fat; wipe skillet until only a thin layer of drippings coats the pan. Warm red sauce over medium heat.
Spoon sauce into individual cast-iron bakers, then crumble pancetta evenly between the bakers. Crack two eggs into each baker and season with salt and pepper. Bake until whites are just barely set, about 12 to 14 minutes. Chiffonade basil into thin strips and scatter over baked eggs. Serve immediately with grilled bread.